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Tips For Boosting Facebook Engagement

Best practices from brands that get their fans involved in the conversation, based on MotiveQuest research.

Facebook top tips lists are a dime a dozen, but few go beyond simply how to rack up likes. MotiveQuest takes that next step, offering lessons learned from its research on how successful brands are at engaging with people on the social network.

MotiveQuest, a big-brand market analytics company, has launched a mass-market research service called Fathom, with Fathom for Facebook as its first product. This list is based on its presentationon 20 Facebook relationship builders, available on SlideShare.

Invite Interaction

1. Ask meaningful questions.Example from Dove: "80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but only 4% see beauty in themselves. Let's change the stats: Tell us at least one thing that you love about yourself in the comments!"

What makes it work: Instead of focusing solely on product, the product is designed to engage on a more personal level.

2. Let fans know you are listening.BMW: "From your comments, we know that many of you are waiting for the next BMW 3 Series. Well, we have great news for you: Tomorrow at 4.00 pm CEST, we will present the all-new BMW 3 Series Sedan to the world. ... We are mighty excited, how about you?"

What makes it work: Post references previous messages from fans, including those visible on the Facebook wall.

Encourage Storytelling

3. Evoke nostalgia.Ford Motor Company: "This Week's Featured Fan Photo was uploaded by Dale Foust who captured his father's Ford truck next to his own. How long has Ford run in your family?"

Why it works: Makes people think about how long the brand has been part of their lives.

4. Inspire imagination.Audi: "Are you taking a long-weekend roadtrip? We left the driver seat open on this R8 Spyder, so that you could imagine yourself behind the wheel. Tell us where you would go if you had the chance to drive an R8 for three days."

Why it works: For aspirational brands like fashion or cars, giving people an opportunity to let their imaginations take over makes them part of the conversation, even if they who do not yet own one of your products.

5. Share photos.Ford documented the annual "Mustang Memories Car Show" in Michigan and posted the photos on the brand page. By attending and sharing the event, the brand took a local passion and turned it into a global experience.

Why it works: In the automotive category, photos level the playing field between car enthusiasts and the masses and extend the reach of special events, over both time and distance. Consider not only posting photos for response but also allowing fans to share their own photos.

Exchange Ideas

6. Encourage creativity.Starbucks: "For the first time ever, we have a Starbucks Card with Braille on it! We are very proud to bring this to our stores. Do you have an idea for Starbucks? Share it here. You can also view others' ideas--vote on them, comment, and then come back to see ideas in action."

Why it works: Besides generating product ideas, crowdsourcing gives fans a sense of ownership of the brand.

7. Tackle the issues.ABC News: "'There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason,' Obama said. 'That refusal continues to be the main stumbling block.' Do you agree with Obama, or was it a bipartisan failure?"

Why it works: Posts that spark debate among fans are particularly well-suited to brands that produce content, though relevant content can easily be "borrowed" and reposted to get the conversation going. Take care to create an environment in which fans feel comfortable posting and discussion stays friendly so it does not adversely affect brand perceptions.


8. Commemorate milestones.Sony Playstation: "Happy birthday, PS3! With PS3 turning 5 today, the world's best game designers celebrate by naming their 3 favorite PS3 games of all time. What are yours?"

Why it works: Much of Facebook user activity revolves around sharing and celebrating milestones like birthdays, weight loss, and accomplishments. Share your brand's special moments and invite your fans to do the same.

9. Participate in seasonal traditions.Macy's: "Black Friday is just one week away! If you could choose anything at Macy's to go on sale next week, what would it be?"

Why it works: Holidays and seasonal events (such as back-to-school) offer merchants ample opportunity to creatively draw customers to their merchandise. Go beyond gimmicks and sales pitches to really get fans in the spirit. For example, Macy's did not just promote their Black Friday sale; they opened a conversation about holiday wishes.

Just Have Fun

10. Connect your brand to fans' passions.Best Buy: "What is your favorite song from The Beatles? Today in 1962 The Beatles released their first single 'Love Me Do' in the UK."

Why it works: Make a connection with things that people are passionate about. Post a game for fans who like games. Or, start a discussion about a band if (like Best Buy) you sell music-related products.

11. Fill in the _________.Burger King: "Fill in the blank! When I'm listening to my favorite radio station, I crank up the volume when I hear _____."

Why it works: One-word response activities like fill-in-the-blank questions are a quick, easy, and fun way to get fans to respond without requiring a lot of effort. Be sure to avoid over-focusing on your brand; fans know who you are already.

12. Play a game.Capitol One: "You've only got a couple days left to grab exclusive Capital One rewards in @FarmVille and @Pioneer Trail! Hurry over to find out what's available."

Games strengthen the bond with current fans and increase your following when they encourage friends to play. Capital One's Visigoth invasion of Farmville, through product placement with Zynga, is an example of linking the real and virtual worlds.

13. Offer deals, contests, & "Like this post if you have entered the Amazon Win with Friends Sweepstakes! Who did you pick for a chance to win with you?"

Why it works: A good deal or a chance to win prizes is almost guaranteed to attract new people. For example, Amazon's sweepstakes also encourages participants to involve their friends.

Show Some Personality

14. Let characters represent your brand.Disney: "Sometimes magic appears in unexpected places. Watch as Mickey Mouse brings a touch of Disney Parks to New York City."

Why it works: Characters provide a personality fans can connect with your brand. Disney is particularly fortunate in having such a large cast, but insurance companies, such as Allstate (Mayhem) and GEICO (the Gecko), and automobiles, such as Ford Focus (Doug, the Orange Puppet) have also successfully used this strategy.

15. Leverage star power.ESPN: "COMMENT with an NFL-related question, and Coach Herm might answer it ON TV tonight on Audibles."

Why it works: Celebrity spokespeople certainly draw attention, but interaction with famous people dramatically increases fans' excitement.

16. Be irreverent.Allstate's Mayhem character: "It's hot. I think I'll drive into an ice cream truck today."

Why it works: Give fans a laugh and make your brand more approachable by being a little irreverent. Allstate makes the insurance conversation more interesting through its Mayhem ads and Facebook posts, which amuse fans while reminding them why they need insurance.

17. Talk about something besides your product.Coca-Cola: "Does running in place while on Facebook count as exercise?"

Why it works: All business, all the time is no fun. Go off-topic once in a while and make small talk with your fans, whether you ask a lighthearted question or provoke their thoughts about an issue that is meaningful to your brand community.

Make Connections

18. Share content.Xfinity: "Re-watch last night's 'Dancing With The Stars' dances. Who did you like? Who do you think will go? Click here and watch the recap."

Why it works: Content providers like Xfinity have an advantage here, but providing fans with links to appealing, relevant articles and videos--created by your team or not--is like giving them a small gift, whether it is simply entertaining or serves to raise awareness about a particular issue, cause, or opportunity.

19. Champion a good cause.Chase: "Like the American Giving Awards so you can vote to help 5 charities win grants! The American Giving Awards Presented by Chase: A Celebrity Tribute to Community Heroes."

Why it works: Building a separate page for community outreach allows companies to focus and segment their Facebook activity and gives them a chance to showcase the good they do under their brand's name.

20. Make your product relevant to everyday life.Dr. Pepper: "Dr Pepper TEN Man'Ment #7 No posting pics of your lunch. If you're doing it right now, consider yourself a Man'Ment breaker."

Why it works: Create posts that tell fans you understand how your product fits into their lives. For example, Dr Pepper's Ten Man'Ments campaign, successful due in part to the controversy it ignited, showed men that the new TEN product "gets" them.

This article was originally posted on UBM TechWeb's The BrainYard on 12/6/11.

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